For a beverage producer like the Eckes-Granini Group this is a major argument. The German family business, headquartered in Nieder-Olm in the federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, achieves a turnover of around €900 million a year with its products in over 80 countries worldwide. The premium Granini brand is well known all over the world, with hohes C synonymous with top-quality orange juice in Germany. Top quality thus takes top priority at Eckes-Granini, from the use of select fruit and raw materials through the production process to the finished product. Accordingly, the company places special focus on sustainability – not only in conjunction with the origin and procurement of its raw materials but also throughout the entire value chain. As well as concentrating on ecological, economical and socially responsible production and logistics processes, the company also directs its particular attention to the use of resource-saving packaging with excellent recycling options. This is also of interest to consumers.

The patented Plasmax coating process provides outstanding quality protection for sensitive beverages such as fruit juice. In the process an ultra-thin, invisible layer of glass is applied to the inside of PET bottles; this forms a barrier stopping flavors and/or carbon dioxide from escaping and oxygen from penetrating the bottle, thus preventing loss of vitamins. As in a glass bottle taste and freshness are retained in the FreshSafe PET® bottle coated using the Plasmax method. This considerably extends the shelf life in the retail trade of products filled in this way.

Bei Multilayer-Flaschen oder „Blend“-Lösungen, den bisher im Markt üblichen Barrierelösungen, werden beispielsweise Nylon oder Substanzen, die mit Sauer­stoff reagieren, in einer Mittellage eingespritzt oder in den Kunststoff eingemischt. Demgegenüber bietet das Plasmax-Verfahren einen entscheidenden und zunehmend wichtigeren Vorteil: Die beschichteten PET-Flaschen können uneingeschränkt wieder zu neuen PET-Flaschen recycelt werden. „Anders als bei Multilayer­-Flaschen oder den ‚Blend‘-Lösungen, bei denen die Trennung der verschiedenen Kunststoffe aufwendiger ist, kann die hauchdünne Glasschicht abgewaschen und das PET sortenrein weiterverarbeitet werden“, erklärt Andreas Klages, Sales Management Barrier Technology bei KHS Corpoplast. „Davon profitiert auch die Recycling-Industrie, da sie ausschließlich Kunststoffe verarbeitet, die sortenrein und frei von Verunreinigungen sind.“

“We enjoy a very close and trusting partnership with Eckes-Granini which goes back many years.”

Optimum recycling properties

“For us, one of the important advantages of the FreshSafe PET® bottle is that unlike the multilayer variant it can weigh a lot less – and in doing so has at least the same if not better diffusion values while providing correspondingly powerful product protection,” explains Hermann Naumann, plant manager for Eckes-Granini in Bad Fallingbostel in Germany’s Lower Saxony. “What's just as important, however, are the optimum recycling properties which allow us to use up to 50% recycled PET in the manufacture of our bottles.”

Back in 2006 Eckes-Granini was the first company in the fruit juice sector to go to market with Plasmax. Now the producer of first-class juices and soft drinks is again living up to its role as a pioneer. The first InnoPET FreshSafe block from KHS went into operation at its plant last year, the block system comprising a stretch blow molder and a Plasmax coating machine. “Blocking makes two efficient machines even better and even more economical,” emphasizes Andreas Klages from KHS. “As we can do away with about 60 meters of air conveyor, we’ve eliminated a potential, maintenance-intensive source of disruption. The block’s compact, extremely space-saving layout makes it even more operator friendly.”

The layout of the InnoPET FreshSafe block at Eckes-Granini's Bad Fallingbostel site is compact and extremely low on space.
The layout of the InnoPET FreshSafe block at Eckes-Granini's Bad Fallingbostel site is compact and extremely low on space.

The stretch blow molding and coating machines are now only linked by a transfer module with four stars where the blow-molded bottles are cooled before they are given their glass coating. Blocking and consistent neck handling, where the bottles are held by the neck until they have been coated, make for a fully controlled process. With the new InnoPET FreshSafe block up to 36,000 bottles per hour holding between 0.5 and 1.5 liters can be produced and coated. “We enjoy a very close and trusting partnership with Eckes-Granini which goes back many years,” states Bernd-Thomas Kempa, head of Barrier Technology Global Account Management at KHS Corpoplast. “Since 2003 – in other words, literally since taking our first steps with glass coating – we’ve continued to compare notes on how to provide optimum product and quality protection for sensitive juices and soft drinks.” On the issue of what’s best for its products, the company very quickly threw off all constraints and was subsequently totally receptive to new developments and processes.

Perfect protection

It’s obvious that Eckes-Granini, who has made it its mission to give “people the best of fruit for a healthy and enjoyable life”, cannot and does not want to take any risks here. “Before changing over our top hohes C and Granini products from glass bottles to PET in 2003 we ran countless series of trials and storage tests to ensure that our products are perfectly protected,” is how Naumann describes the meticulous process and great care the company takes. It was also extremely important for the established market that the glass bottle designs consumers were familiar with were retained. With hohes C this was chiefly the brown color of the bottle and with Granini the container’s characteristic pineapple shape which has earned it the nickname of “flower vase” within the company. At that time Eckes-Granini opted for the first aseptic filling lines from the Dortmund systems supplier, with more soon to follow. Convinced by the quality of Plasmax glass coating, in 2006 and 2010 Eckes-Granini added the first KHS coating machines to its aseptic lines. PET bottles now account for about three quarters of the entire group’s packaging assortment, with the percentage of bottles with Plasmax coating continuously rising from year to year.

The InnoPET FreshSafe block owes its pristine appearance to KHS’ neat and orderly ClearLine product design.
The InnoPET FreshSafe block owes its pristine appearance to KHS’ neat and orderly ClearLine product design.

Short distances, direct talks

“It’s of huge benefit to our partnership that we’re only 100 kilometers apart,” says Kempa. “This means that distances are short in all respects. Especially with an innovative partner such as Eckes-Granini, it’s important that we’re able to meet on short notice if need be to clarify any unresolved points in direct talks.” There were ultimately many challenges to master in the further development of the process which KHS happily tackled – from reducing changeover times through boosting productivity to optimizing energy efficiency. “We of course also benefit from what we’ve learned during our intensive partnership, helping us to optimize our innovative processes with regard to practical use and come up with totally new solutions.”

Top quality takes top priority for plant manager Naumann from the fruit to the finished product – and especially in the protective of the sensitive beverages.
Top quality takes top priority for plant manager Naumann from the fruit to the finished product – and especially in the protective of the sensitive beverages.

This is also much appreciated by the customer. “KHS reacted to our suggestions and requests for change with great speed and flexibility,” smiles plant manager Naumann. He thus sees the companies’ joint endeavors as an ongoing process which will continue. “The challenge for both KHS and us here at the plant in Bad Fallingbostel is to efficiently realize the great complexity of our packaging portfolio, caused by the vast variety of bottles with different sized necks, in the minimum changeover time.” This includes aspects such as shortening startup and shutdown times, achieving a higher performance and efficiency and ensuring minimum loss rates during the coating process.

Eckes-Granini is so enthused by the advantages of Plasmax coating that the main branch in Nieder-Olm is even considering how to communicate these to the consumer – beyond a mention in the company’s sustainability report. This is a notion Bernd-Thomas Kempa from KHS can well understand and positively welcomes. “The consumer is happy to accept the benefits of PET – i.e. its low weight and non-breakability – yet still has certain misgivings in conjunction with the plastic – even if objectively speaking there’s absolutely no reason for this. Providing information on the barrier between the beverage and the PET material here can definitely give the customer an extra sense of security – and possibly even make them aware that this special form of protection may be worth paying for, along the lines of ‘do something good and talk about it’.”

Food grade
The quality of the filled product is retained and its shelf life extended.

Heat resistant
FreshSafe PET® bottles are also perfectly suitable for hot filling at temperatures of between 80 and 95°C.

Sustainable
The glass coating is washed off during recycling, producing pure PET for direct reuse.

 

 

Your contact on this topic

Bernd-Thomas Kempa
Head of Barrier Technology Global Account Management
KHS Corpoplast GmbH, Hamburg, Germany

Phone: +49 40 67907 105
Email: bernd.kempa@khs.com

Andreas Klages
Barrier Technology Sales Management
KHS Corpoplast GmbH, Hamburg, Germany

Phone: +49 40 67907 466
Email: andreas.klages@khs.com